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OCV Newsletter, December 2014    
Dear Neighbor:

With russet and copper-toned leaves now clinging only to oaks and beeches in the county's woodlands, the holiday season is in full swing.  OCV has been at work on a variety of things, and with the New Year only weeks away, we'd like to give you an update.  We're excited about what we've been up to, and hope you will be, too! 

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In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Rural Road Safety Takes a New Turn
Orange County Schools Completes Community Visioning Process
NC DOT Unveils Draft of 10-Year Transportation Plan
Orange County Launches a New Emergency Alert System
Community Leaders Call for Economic Development and Workforce Housing in Efland
Building on Community Alliances
Commissioners Stepping Up Talks on Bond Referendum
Bob Nutter of Maple View Farm Inducted into the Business Hall of Fame
Charles Blackwood Sworn In as Sheriff
Rogers Road Community Center Now Open!

Upcoming Events    

  • Hayrides with Santa at Maple View's Agricultural EducationCenter. There will be storytelling and a unique opportunity to tour the farm decorated in holiday lights.  December 6-7 and December 13-14, at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30.  Reservations at 919-942-6122.
  • Hillsborough Holiday Events. Hillsborough holiday events have a new twist.  The Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting will be held Saturday December 6, at 4:45.  The Candlelight Tour will feature historic events and veteran homecomings.  For more, click here
  • Orange County School Community Vision Presented to the Board of Education.  Monday, December 8.  Gravelly Hills Middle School. Reception at 6:00 pm followed by presentation to the board at 7:00 pm.  All are welcome.  

  • Exercise Classes for Seniors.  Fridays, from 10:00-10:45am, at Schley Grange.  Provided by Project Engage and the Orange County Department on Aging.  Free.

  • Hillsborough WHUP Fundraiser.  Thursday, December 11.  Dine at many downtown restaurants in Hillsborough, and 5% of your bill will support WHUP, Hillsborough's new community radio station.  For more information, including participating restaurants, click here.

  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade.  Saturday, December 13, from 10:00am-noon.  Click here for details.

Rural Road Safety Takes a New Turn 


OCV has resumed its work to improve the safety of the county's rural roads, with renewed emphasis on the need for cooperation between motorists and cyclists.  Orange County's pastoral landscape provides an enjoyable place to cycle, but it is impractical to add bike lanes to 900 miles of secondary county roads.  Better rules and infrastructure are needed to insure that the road is shared safely.   For a recent column on the topic, click here.



A coalition of cyclists and motorists is working with DOT and the Highway Patrol to improve road safety for everyone.  Priorities include:
  • better road infrastructure, including safety shoulders at blind curves and hills, allowing cyclists to make room for passing vehicles
  • better educational materials to be issued by the Highway Patrol, making everyone aware of their rights and responsibilities
  • clarity in road safety laws, particularly laws concerning impeding traffic and cycling in groups

We are also exploring options for adding recreational bike trails to the county's park plan, including possibly re-imagining the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as a shared cyclist-pedestrian trail in the section linking Saxapahaw and Hillsborough.  Hillsborough's Riverwalk is currently a shared-use section of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail.   

 

If you are a cyclist or motorist who is interested in working with us, please contact Gail Alberti.  

Orange County Schools Completes Community Visioning Process

 

During the past four months, Orange County Schools (OCS) engaged community leaders from throughout the county in developing a vision of the future for our public schools.  Board Chair Steve Halkiotis and Acting Superintendent Del Burns attended each session and listened as community leaders discussed challenges and opportunities affecting the future of our schools.  OCV leaders Bonnie Hauser and Norma White participated in the process.

  

The group affirmed the community's commitment to public education, in a time when children and their families must acquire and maintain a constantly-evolving set of skills, be able to think critically, and assume an appropriate degree of personal responsibility.  Participants reached out broadly to parents, neighbors, teachers, and businesses throughout the community, in an effort to assure that perspectives and values expressed in the vision were truly representative of the community at large. 

 

Results of this process to set a new course for the future of our public schools will be presented to the OCS Board on Monday, December 8, at 6:00pm, at Gravelly Hills Middle School, in Efland.  All are welcome.

 

For more about this initiative, click here.    
NC DOT Unveils Draft of 10-Year Transportation Plan

The NC DOT recently unveiled a draft version of its 10-year Transportation Plan.  It calls for investing $15 billion, primarily in road projects, over the course of the next ten years.  One proposal included in the draft adds a toll lane to I-40, from 15-501 to Raleigh.  For more on the plan, click here.

The plan comes as the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) concludes its public workshops on Light Rail Transit (LRT) and adjusts to changes in leadership on the Wake County Board of Commissioners.  In early November of this year, Wake County voters replaced all four of its Republican commissioners with Democrats committed to making schools and transportation a priority. 

The Wake County Board is expected to put a -cent transit tax on the 2016 ballot.  They have retained expert Jarrett Walker to review TTA's plans, including alternatives to LRT.  Walker is expected to provide a report to the commissioners during the summer of 2015.  For more information, click here.

Meanwhile, questions remain about routes and funding for the Orange-Durham LRT corridor.  Proposed routes may adversely affect protected natural areas, as well as some Durham businesses. 

State hearings on DOT's proposed plan are scheduled for March of 2015.
Orange County Launches a New Emergency Alert System 

 

Residents are urged to sign up for Orange County's new Call Alerts System, so that the county can contact you directly in the event of an emergency.  This system replaces the county's Code Red System, and has the advantage of many new features.  To enroll, please click here.
Community Leaders Call for Economic Development and Workforce Housing in Efland 

 

 

OCV leaders joined Efland, Hillsborough, and the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities in advocating for improved zoning to encourage economic development along the I-40/I-85 corridor in Efland.  Leaders also believe that better zoning would attract quality workforce housing in communities to the north and south of the interstate.  Efland's location, combined with its interstate, rail, and sewer infrastructure, make this family-oriented community a unique place for commercial development. 
 
To learn more, click here
Building on Community Alliances 

 

OCV is making progress towards creating a community network designed to make it easier for communities throughout Orange County to connect with one another.  The technological infrastructure to achieve this goal is now in place, and we are currently meeting with local organizations and community groups who may want to join the network. 

 

One example is a group called the Efland Community Churches, a faith coalition which was founded in 2001, and works to provide food and clothing to families in need, backpacks to school-age children, and financial support to schools and others in the community.  Churches, fire departments, and neighborhoods in Bingham Township are interested in creating a similar coalition.  Individual groups such as the Grange and Ruritan Club
have expressed interest in connecting with others in the network.

The idea is to build upon and enhance existing coalitions, and use a combination of email, social media, and telephone correspondence to communicate with others within the network.
 
Please contact Nick Davis or Bonnie Hauser if you are interested in learning more about this project or wish to better connect your group or organization with others within the Orange County community.
Commissioners Stepping Up Talks on Bond Referendum

Aging schools have been an issue for Orange County for years, and things are getting worse.  Last year, Estes Hills Elementary was closed for three days because there was no heat.  Parts of Efland-Cheeks Elementary flooded after heavy rains.  Stained ceilings, mold, and leaky roofs are typical, and some schools need to be replaced.


Both school districts - Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools - have submitted a wish list of repairs and renovations totaling $200-300 million, depending on whether the schools pursue repairs only, or include expansions.  This list is separate from the county's own project wish list, containing nearly $400 million in new projects over the next 10 years.  


The wish lists have yet to be analyzed for priority or duplication, yet commissioners have begun discussing a possible bond referendum for the 2016 ballot.  The referendum would ask voters to sanction a tax increase that allows the county to take on more projects - and more debt.  The county estimates a 4-to 5-point tax increase to cover the cost of payments on the additional debt.  That's in addition to the expected 4-5 point increase in the tax rate when properties are revalued in 2017.


Look for more regarding school funding alternatives and the potential bond referendum in the new year. 
Maple View Farm Inducted into the Business Hall of Fame
Bob Nutter and the Maple View Team 
On November 13, Bob Nutter and the team who brings us Maple View Milk and ice cream with a view, were inducted into the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.  Upon receiving the award, Bob said, quite simply: "Orange County has been good to me."  
Charles Blackwood Sworn In as Orange County Sheriff

 

Superior Court Judge Carl Fox swears in Charles Blackwood
On Monday, December 1, within the walls of a packed courtroom and in the presence of an overflow crowd, Charles Blackwood becomes Orange County's new sheriff.  Congratulations to Sheriff Blackwood! 
Rogers Road Community Center Opens!


Congratulations are also in order to the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA).  Their new community center is now officially open!  

In addition, negotiations between Orange County and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro concerning long-awaited water and sewer infrastructure are now complete.  Construction of water and sewer lines in the Rogers Road Community should begin soon.  For more, click here.
Our very best wishes to you and your family for the holiday season, as well as the coming New Year.  We remain grateful for your ongoing support for our work throughout the rural community.

During this season of giving, we are especially grateful for your generosity and good will towards our neighbors in need.

Happy Holidays!
  

Sincerely,

The OCV Board
Alex Castro, Jr., Chair, alexcastrojr@hotmail.com 
Nick Davis, Vice-Chair, Nickdavis33@yahoo.com
Tish Galu, Treasurer,  galump@centurylink.net 
Norma White, Secretary, n.b.white@embarqmail.com 
Bonnie Hauser, bahauser@aol.com
Mike Hughes, mmh@mmhpe.com 
                                                                                               
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  - Margaret Mead
 
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